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Another story idea niggling away at my brain I thought I would share.

Hello readers! Yes, I am possibly being overzealous by saying that as a plural – but I live in hope! 😉

I have had a busy year adjusting to online university and adding it to my juggle of house, hordes, health and husbane… but I think I’m getting there at last. And no, that is not a typo… it is meant to read husbane – he understands the humour in my turning him into the bane of my life. It’s a term of endearment, just like calling my children demonic hordes. Honest.

So anyway, university is going well… I’m still awaiting the final grades for my first study period, but rumour has it I’ve passed with some reasonably good marks. Let’s hope that rumour is true or BOY am I going to look an idiot on here when I have to retract that later!

I’m, unfortunately, not learning a heck of a lot of new stuff from my units yet (possibly why I am achieving such a good grade) as these core units are just rehashing stuff I already know but couldn’t prove I knew so that I could skip it and get on with the degree. I’m sure my grades will plummet as soon as I hit a unit that isn’t all about writing… which these ones are. I will admit know I really suck at argumentative essays. Yes I can write and yes I can argue (in the critical thinking sense of the word as well as in the ‘losing my cool’ sense of the word) but I can’t seem to write and argue in an analytical manner. The positive to this is I chose a rather interesting topic (to me) to research and argue upon… so I gained something from it all the same.

And, can I just say, letting an Author – who loves to research – loose on a universities databases is like letting a kid loose in a lolly shop! Or giving me carte blanche at Red Cacao. 😉 Wow! I freely admit to being side tracked on numerous occasions during my research hour and wandering off to find things more beneficial to my Other World series than to my essay on creating a zero waste clothing and textile consumer.

Seriously, if you’re an Author and love to research – get thee to a university database! It links you to libraries and documents all over the world for FREE and boy is it a load of fun! For those not able to do this, Google Scholar is passable, but Trove here in Australia is waaaay better! Heck, even I’m in their database!

But I digress, I was here to post about my latest story idea I would love to see fellow Writers and Authors play with. Heck, if I could organise myself more I would turn it into some sort of little online festival thingy. But as I have nothing to offer as a reward, who is seriously going to attend? And cue the crickets loudly chirping in a big old empty room…. Now!

This story idea was, as usual, fuelled by a recent news article I happen to catch on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) News. There is going to be some kind of scientific get together here in Australia (yes, I am so good with the technical words, I know!) And, so, this science gathering will be here to talk about the issues we are having regarding a lot of junk littering space within the Earth’s orbit. Loads of smashed satellites and all sorts of other things and it’s growing larger and more dangerous simply because the more things we put up there, the more likely they are to be smashed up by the space junk already up there… and therefore create more space junk. You know? The whole cascade effect thingy.

It’s gotten so bad that the folk on the International Space Station have frequent alerts where they have to go seal themselves off in a heavily protected area of the station and wait out an imminent collision with some junk and then assess the damage it has made and ensure their station is still intact.

Please note – this is all true and I’ve not even started on the fiction side yet!

The reasons the science boffins are gathering here is to try and figure out a way to clean up the space junk as it’s gotten so bad our international astronauts can’t do space walks anymore as the risk of being whacked by orbiting satellite bits is just too great. It was predicted that in only a very short space of time (I think they said several years but my mind goes fuzzy on dates) we won’t be able to use the space around our planet as it will be so filled with junk nothing can be up there and not be hit. Say goodbye to all our satellites boys and girls, this is how serious it is.

Won’t someone think of the Enterprise?!

Okay… with me so far? All of that is true and the facts as gleamed from this news interview.

What did I then immediately think of? A nano-technological plague of course!!! Duh!

Who else can’t imagine a story where they fix the space junk issue by sending all these metal eating nanobots into space to clear away the junk? They were supposedly programmed to only eat the space junk but… dun dun daaaaaaa…. Something goes wrong and anything made of metal up there is on their menu.

So we won’t be getting satellites back anytime soon, we start to technologically de-evolve and all thought of space travel is currently on hold until we find a new building material. Paper? Plastic? Ceramic? Oh the ship designs could be glorious!

And cue the international disaster that means the planet is quickly becoming uninhabitable and the only place we can go is up and….. there’s the story idea.

I would dearly love to play with it myself, but I have my Other World series to finish, my murder mystery series to get going and my NA urban fantasy about global warming to get off the ground…. Add to that the kids stories my kids have been nagging me to write and, well, I just don’t have enough time in the day.

So I am handing yet another awesome story idea out into the interweb and want you Writers and Authors to do me proud! Write me a 5,000 word short story on it and I will publish the best one on my Author blog – full credit, ownership and rights to be kept by the Author. No plagiarism, no stealing others ideas and no selling my idea on. Remember, I do accept decent hot chocolate as payment if you can’t scrape together enough money to actually pay me when you turn it into a million dollar movie idea. 😉

Maybe one day I will sit down and write a story like this myself… sustainability, zero waste and how to make rocket ships… Oooh, that does sounds like an AWESOME title!!! Maybe we should do an anthology? Who’s with me? 😉

Okay, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading.

Until next time,

Janis.

 
 

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So, where DO I get my ideas from?

So, where DO I get my ideas from?

Hi everyone, I’ve decided to share exactly what I mean when I say ‘Life inspires me’ when answering the question in the title of today’s blog post.

I personally feel this is the most common question set to Writer’s by those who don’t have an imagination so fierce it is crawling about in their brain like ants. Or maybe that’s just me and actually a scalp issue I need looking at? 😉

Some people simply appear perplexed I am able to make up stories out of seemingly nothing and I just want to set the record straight and give some examples of where I do get stories from to try and encourage others to have a go at writing them!

So, where do I get my stories from? I’m a watcher. I like to watch life go past, analyse it, pocket snippets and thoughts of it away for later. Yes, I am that introvert in the corner of a busy room simply watching and listening and storing data… And I would like to see a Writer who isn’t!

I remember taking a friend (and well known author I’m not about to name drop) for a wander through the Stirling markets here in the Adelaide Hills. The street we wandered was lined with oak trees and when I pointed out that the name of the street was Druids Avenue – I could see that data spark in her eyes, almost watch it being store away for use later… I could see it as this is how I see the world too. Everything has potential as a story idea.

Sometimes it’s a simple one liner – see my creations of ‘Dodo Radio’ in Bonnie’s Story (well, in the blog posts and possibly in any sequel I may write). I was just having a 140 character chat with another Author friend via a certain piece of social media and we were discussing the differences between radio in Australia versus the UK. I would kill to have radio like BBC4 here! Well, not literally kill, but strongly hug at the very least – and I am a big lady after all so kill… meh, I digress. 😉

Yes, Australian radio and it’s lack of a spectrum as vibrant as radio in the UK had it described as ‘Dodo Radio’… which then led me off on train of thought that had me create the Dodo radio explained in one of Bonnie’s blog posts. That’s the sort of thing I mean when I say life inspires me.

I also find news headlines inspire me. I can’t say the entire article does, and sometimes I don’t even bother reading that part… but a simple one line can spark that creative fire in my brain. Though in the case of the two examples I’m about to give, I did read the articles… and then turned them into things they weren’t meant to be.

Now, with these examples, I would dearly love to see some new and eager Writers take the story and run with it. I can’t publish it, I can’t pay you for it, but I can (hopefully) inspire you to use it… or at least see how easy it is to pluck a story idea from the normal every day.

And so, here we go. Where do I get my story ideas from? Well, this is where…

Recently, while browsing the ABC news on my phone (as I do first thing in the morning before getting up) I read through an interesting article about how they are thinking of introducing a fish herpes to the Murray River as a way to combat the horrible pest species of carp that has been destroying it for decades.

What really got my imagination cogs going was where they talked about all the testing they would need to do first. I thought, fair enough; don’t want to wipe out all fish in the Murray with this disease. But my little grey cells sparked into life when it was mentioned they were also testing what this disease might do to humans… not only those exposed to the water, but those who ate foods grown in the area and watered with this diseased water!

Yes, the italics symbolise how exciting this whole concept was to me. Why? Oh, come on, who else doesn’t think pandemic explosion from food contaminated by something in its water supply? Just think of the speculative fiction ‘what if’ you could make from this! It could be your common garden virus or Ebola like thing wiping out the country and causing a dystopian lifestyle for some Young Adult to explore… or it could cause mutations or, dare I say it, be the catalyst for that zombie invasion so many people are jokingly prepping for. The possibilities are endless!

Now, please note I am not saying that the actual fish herpes virus would cause this at all. Hell no, I’m pretty sure the scientists are going to thoroughly test it first… and half of it is just fiction in anyone’s book. But I hope you can see what I mean about how something harmless I read in the news can be turned into some pretty interesting reading for someone else. 😉

Another recent example is (again with the ABC news first thing in the morning) a giant supernova, brighter than anything they’ve ever seen has just caught the attention of scientists and has them re-writing some of the info they thought they knew on supernovas. Nothing too exciting for we non-scientists, right? But there is a line in the article where they say “perhaps it’s not a supernova at all” and, well, they may as well have waved a red cloak at a charging bull with that line.

Yes, they did go on to say it might be a lot of other actual, real life sciencey stuff… but half my brain wasn’t listening any more. It was already off on another speculative fiction ‘what if’ journey with opening lines such as:

“At first they thought it was a new type of Supernova appearing in the night’s sky. But by the time they realised it was an invasion, it was too late…”

Yes, that is indeed how my mind works. I seriously can’t take it anywhere without that sort of thing happening.

And that boys and girls, is how I take life and get inspired to write what I write. Yes it’s not ‘True Crime’ or ‘Literary Fiction’, which most people say is what life inspires… no, life  – in the right set of hands or mind – can inspire any Writer of any genre to do what they do best: Write.

I guess it means Writer’s don’t see the world in the same way as others? Maybe another reason we need to wear badges so people realise we’re creating new worlds around us while walking down the street and watching a leaf casually blow across our path. We take in everything, we store everything, we feed everything into our imaginations and turn it into the most interesting compost in which we grow some pretty amazing things.

Heck, that paragraph alone could even be the start of a story too. What do you think? Have a go; I’d love to hear how it turns out. But you owe me a hot chocolate and brownie if you make it into a block buster novel. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2016 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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I suppose I should do one of those ‘it’s the New Year’ posts?

I suppose I should do one of those ‘it’s the New Year’ posts?

Hello everyone!

Yes, I left my blog on a bit of a downer a few weeks ago by using it to say goodbye to a dear friend who sadly passed away suddenly just before Christmas.

Then with all the bedlam of the Solstice, Christmas, the calendar New Year, my revolting Hordes (as in they kept revolting and refusing to help) and a big old nasty heatwave… yeah, like I had time to blog something merry, festive and bright.

I will add my PA (the Death of Rats) did try and lighten my mood, but after this incident leading to a severely mauled Santa, he was sent on his own Christmas break. There were just too many old, precious glass ornaments on my tree to trust him to be gentle. 😉

DoR Christmas

And so here I am, late for the Solstice post, late for the Christmas one too, and so I decided to go for the trifecta and be late for the calendar New Year post as well. Nailed it.

By the way, in case you’re wondering why I call it the calendar New Year – I’m Pagan, for me the old year dies and the new one begins with Yule… in June. I just conform and celebrate the end of the wall calendar and ceremony of putting a new calendar up at this time of the year. If there is any New Year at this end of the calendar, it’s the one where I get to shout Gong Xi Fa Cai and have an excuse to eat fortune cookies (like I need an excuse!)

But, I digress. 🙂

So… How have you all been?

Me, well besides all of the above, I’ve actually been a little busy.

Let’s see… Early December saw me sign my third publishing contract with Hague Publishing for the second in my Other World series There’s no place like Hell and I’ve even also been chipping away at the third book We represent the Demon Guild. The more I work on this series, the more I love the research I’m doing into the old ways of the afterlife and the supernatural – you know, before they were turned sparkly and into chick lit. This research has gotten to the point that had me wondering who the local Ankou and Dullahan would be as we sat up watching the calendar year end.

Yes, I’ve been hanging around researching the afterlife too long when I wonder how to greet the new Reapers in the neighbourhood. Oh these are the Reapers in our neighbourhood…. Sing it with me, we all know that old Sesame Street tune.;-)

Okay, focus Janis! So other than that, what else?

Well, my Reviewer blog is puttering along nicely. I mean, it’s not like it has hundreds of followers or even hundreds of hits each day… I can get dozens of hits… but not in the hundreds yet. All the same, I’m pleased with how it’s going as I’m getting a lot of good feedback from people regarding my reviews. I’ve apparently even helped sell a few books I’ve reviewed, so yay me! Shame there is no commission! I’ve also started to have authors and publishers approach me directly with reviewing opportunities. That and my son was sent something to review the other day… So, I’m either doing something right, or I’m just seen as an easy review. 😉 Oh cynical me shut up! We’re pretending it’s because I’m really good at what I do, okay!

I’ve also started reviewing ‘Supermarket grade’ chocolate over on that blog (another small hit) and have just launched Fairtrade Fridays this year to help promote how easy it is to buy and support Fairtrade on a budget. So go on over and check my Reviewer blog out here.

On and off near the end of the last calendar year I was also helping out with a bit of volunteering. I was the self-titled ‘Social Media Chick’ for a fantastic new local festival called: In the Raw Festival (it’s not what you think!) as well as trying to help out with ideas and promos for my favourite local podcast radio show called The Adelaide Show. Check them both out too, they’re pretty awesome. If they weren’t I wouldn’t be offering my services!

Seriously though, they are wonderful people and both places were willing to give me the chance to do some work experience for them and help keep my old IT grey matter going. I’m loving helping out as it does feel good being seen as more than just a mum, drudge, Horde Wrangler and Haus Frau.

Which leads me on to my latest big step… or mistake – depends on how you look at it! I’ve enrolled to do a degree in Internet Communications via Open Universities Australia as, you know, I didn’t feel run off my feet enough. I see this degree as a fantastic way to help expand my horizons on social media for myself (blogs and books) and for my passion of helping to promote local businesses. AND! Those who want to hire me to shake their assets for them for the cost of regular installments hot chocolate and cake – we should talk!

Yes, I plan on keep busy this year as I am tired of feeling like I am achieving nothing. I know I am achieving things… I just don’t feel like I am. I can’t work – thanks to my own health and helping Horde#3 getting acclimatised to full time school (I got to add unofficial Case Manager for HFASD son to my CV in 2015), I’m keeping busy with my reviewing, I joined a guild (spinners and weavers) and am learning new knitting skills and all in all with my Haus Frauing, cooking, writing, wrangling and volunteering – I was achieving things. Just none of it seemed to be achieved for me. And, as I’ve always wanted to have a degree in something – I never finished high school after all – I thought stuff it! I’m turning 40 and I’m getting a degree! Yes it’s a Bachelor of Arts, and my upbringing in the science section of a certain northern University means a BA is what the sissy girls do… meh, I’m putting my big girl granny knickers on and doing it! 😀

Right, now I’ve gone and justified that new debt in my life, here’s hoping I get the positives out of it I feel I will. Wish me luck, I’m going to need it!

And there you go, you’re all caught up with the whirlwind known as my life. All three kids are on school holidays, my eldest is about to turn 11 (OMG – 11!) and we’ve already had a few nasty bush fire scares even before the calendar New Year. But that’s summer in these glorious hills for you.

Hopefully I will have something more ‘Writer worthy’ for you in my next blog post.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

Boxing Day breakfast 2015

Boxing Day breakfast 2015. Local, fresh fruit and homemade baked goods… *drool*

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Update on my Writer Life

 

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Yes, I DO blog for free… but only for me!

Yes, I DO blog for free… but only for me!

Okay, so there was a little artistic license used on the grammar in the title of this post, but I’m hoping you get the gist?

I’ve decided to dedicate a blog post today to try and raise awareness for those clever writers new to the whole ‘contributing online’ thing.

Why? Well, because I used to be green and eager and willing to agree to some pretty stupid terms and conditions – as long as my work appeared online. It had meant I’d made it in some small way… right?

Well, in most cases – wrong!

If you find a site willing to allow you to ‘blog for them’ – beware! I get invites to such things a lot. More so in recent months since my reviewing site has started to get some hits. Blogging for other people can sometimes mean more negatives than positives.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes blogging for someone else can be a good thing. I’ve done ‘Guest Blogger’ segments for places, and my reviews are often popping up on the social media sites of authors and publishers alike. But the big difference to that sort of blogging for others is the work is recognised as mine. Can you see how serious I am about possession? All that formatting for a four letter word – yes it does mean I have my serious face on!

When I am a guest blogger, a guest reviewer, a reviewer, etc. – the post and all rights to it still belongs to ME, the author. Most of the time I’m not paid when work is shared on someone else’s blog. Well, not in money. I get paid in other ways. If I’m being a guest blogger, it’s usually as a way to expose my work to a wider audience and encourage them to come visit my own blog or buy one of my books. If my reviews are shared, I’ve been paid by being given the item to review. Whether it be a book, block of chocolate, candle or a slow cooker. I get it, I read, eat, light or cook with it – I keep it. Sadly not all books I review are like this… but I’m working on that. 😉

What I’m trying to say is – in these cases – what I have written is acknowledged as being mine (whether it’s good or bad writing) and I have been rewarded for my efforts.

That is good blogging for free.

The bad blogging for free I’m trying to warn new Writers about is sites that invite you to come and post for them, but anything you post will belong to them and they can do with it, share it and use it for whatever they like and not have to share any of the money it may gain them with you. You’ve gotten nothing out of the deal. In most cases your name is even removed as they now legally own the work and so don’t have to even advertise who wrote it. It’s theirs, not yours. You might know it’s yours and show it off proudly to your friends and family… but if someone was to do an internet search on your name to see where you’d been published online – it wouldn’t show up. You would gain: no exposure as an author, no credit for work contributed, no financial gain – NOTHING!

Heck, if you’re okay with this as long as you know it’s your work – go do it, knock yourself out. Have fun with it.

Me, on the other hand, I’m past that part of my career. I’ve been writing for other people where my work has become their Intellectual Property as part of my contract to them. I did that for almost twenty years as an ITC Guru. Then again, I was paid for my work and even if it wasn’t mine to take with me when my contract ended… I’d still earnt cash in hand for the effort. I now work for myself and the only person I don’t expect to pay me for my writing is Myself.

 Now, I’m not trying to sound cocky or arrogant here, I’m trying to spell it out for Writers out there that their work is worth more than they realise. If you spend time out of your day writing something rather than going off and having a ‘real job’, you need to gain from that writing. Whether it be exposure, some kind of positive reward or even – shock horror – actual money, you still deserve it and people shouldn’t ask you do write for them for free.

Even the sites that ‘allow’ you to keep your name on work you post for them… take a long hard look at what they’re getting out of the deal. Is getting an article online that has your name on it but gains you nothing else really worth it? What is that post now being used for? Are the people you posted it to now using it to gain site traffic and therefore ‘pays per click’ to their site? In most cases they are you know, and therefore they should be paying you a percentage.

Just because it’s a ‘mere thousand words’ on a website – you still deserve payment. Whether it is a one off payment, or an ongoing percentage fee as royalties, you should be getting it. And by a one off payment, I do expect to get a decent amount. You’d be surprised what the actual, legal, going rate for a Writer’s work is… Maybe go check it out over at the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) and see. You might be shocked at how much your work is really worth. As, according to ASA, you should get about $350!

And why is a writer’s work worth more than what people are willing to pay? Because the people offering to pay think writing is just putting words together. If they are even bothering to offer you money at all! But if you look at the time that goes into being a writer and put a per hour salary on it… it makes sense. I mean, it’s not as if most of us can write and be getting on with the rest of our allotted tasks. Me, I fit writing in around my Haus Frau duties… it’s why I’ve automated as much of my domestic duties as possible. I have a machine to wash the clothes, another to clean my dishes, yet others to bake and cook foods without my presence. Heck, I even have a robot to vacuum my floors. Basically, I do this to spend more time at my job. I used them when I was a contractor heading off to an office to earn a salary. And I use them now to give me the time to be sitting here and writing this before I have to go get my kids from school and continue on with my tasks as unpaid and underappreciated house drudge… erm, I mean Haus Frau. Sounds more posh when I say it in German and don’t spell it out for you, right? 😉

Basically, what I’m trying to say, is writing takes time. It takes time away from other things we could or even need to be doing… and so we deserve to be paid for that time.

As an author I get paid for the time I’ve spent writing a book by my Publisher doing their damnedest to then sell it. I get royalties. As my Publisher has put time and effort into my book, and also need to be paid, they get part of my royalties too. If I was to have an agent, they too would get part of the royalties as their payment. See, they expect to be paid for services rendered… why is it people don’t expect the same from a Writer?

I could go off on my usual rant about you don’t expect a hairdresser to cut your hair for free, or a café to hand over that hot chocolate and brownie for nothing… Why is a writer any different? We’ve put in time and effort to provide the service of ‘putting words together’, so pay us damn it!

Okay, if I go on I feel I would start repeating myself… plus it smells like the cake I’m baking for my Hordes as I’ve been writing this is about ready to come out of the oven. And as I’m yet to get a machine that will take the damned thing out of the oven and put it on a rack to cool, I’m going to have to go and do that. So it means I have run out of time to write. Still, I will be paid in cake for the services rendered so I’m not complaining. I make a pretty tasty cake.

But I do hope you, the new and still a little green around the ears Writer get what I’m trying to say? You are worth it. Your writing is yours to own and a service you are providing. Think about this before giving it away for free.

If you’re okay with giving it away for free, or for the exposure it brings, go for it. If you’re happy taking twenty dollars for a piece of your work to be published in a magazine, that’s your call too. But I would seriously look at that magazine first, see how much they sell for, how many people buy it and then decide whether they truly can’t afford more than the peanuts… or if they’re taking you for a ride. I’ve dealt with both. I’m more than happy to submit my work to a small time indie magazine for that amount… I’m really being paid in exposure and a few dollars. If it’s a large scale magazine, which take ownership of your work and pay a paltry sum (I’m looking at you Reader’s Digest) – I’d walk away now.

What I’m really trying to say is look into it all first. You’re clever (of course you are, you’re a Writer) so just take a look at the positives and negatives that may arise from giving away your work. Sometimes giving it away for free is a good stepping stone, but please PLEASE don’t turn it into your career.

Finally – yes cynical me is perfectly aware there are some places that will just take my blog posts off of my blogs and flog them as their own. It is copyright infringement; they do not have my permission and are often caught and dealt with. Those who aren’t… well I’m a strong believer in Karma and I know she’s an even bigger bitch than me and know one day she will ensure I get payment. 😉

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

cake and DOR

My PA sprung trying to cut the cake I was baking. My cake, he didn’t write the blog post. 😉

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 23, 2015 in More pep talk than writing, Writing

 

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Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Why I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Hello everyone, it’s November and around the world there are Writers sharing the love of our art and pushing their limits by taking part in NaNoWriMo… And, yeah, I’m not one of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the whole idea of the different versions of NaNoWriMo and, in the past, I’ve even been invited to participate in a few. Heck, last year I even did my own version of a NaNoWriMo to inspire myself to finish the manuscript There’s no place like Hell – and I did indeed get a huge chunk of it done. But no NaNoWriMo for me this year.

Firstly – and I do blame my brain for why I’m not participating – I was inspired with a story idea in mid-October and once I’d got that bindi like thought burrowing into my brain I couldn’t help but start to write it down. I get like that. And as soon as I’d started I thought ‘well bugger! This would have made a perfect NaNoWriMo project’. And being the honest and ethical gal that I am I knew I couldn’t cheat and use it in NaNoWriMo and so just enjoyed the moment and wrote. I do that a lot. Think I should go with the cool kids in the writers gang and do the trendy things like NaNoWriMo… and then revert to my usual outlook of life – which is to do my own thing, when I want to and stuff the trendiods now looking down their noses at me for daring to boogie along to the beat of my own drum. Heck, I’ve lived almost 40 years with this attitude so a recent few years of NaNoWriMo can’t break the habit!

Another reason I’m not doing it is my Hordes had school swimming classes the whole first week of November. And, due to one thing or another (I won’t go into details and embarrass them) I had to be there for moral support and Horde #3 taming. The whole week. Five hours a day. Sitting poolside and giving the thumbs up sign anytime one of my kids looked my way. Yes, it was riveting… not.

I could not write there due to water issues with paper or laptop. And by the time I got us all home, their swimming stuff hung out, dinner on and them taking turns in the bath… urgh. I’m pretty sure all that chlorine and sun just burnt the imagination right out of me as I had nothing left. I found it hard coming up with something to put in a review for books I’d been reading, let alone try and make any of my stories come to life on my computer screen. Seriously, not a good start to NaNoWriMo so I decided to let it pass me by for another year.

Saying that, I will consider invites to this awesome event come October 2016. I can’t say I’ll actually agree to any said invites, but I will consider them. 😉

My drum, my boogie. Just remember that.

However, I am indeed writing this November. I’ve been working on book three in the Other World series – We represent the Demon Guild. It’s coming along nicely and the remaining two unwritten books are starting to gel in my brain and I think I finally know how it’s all going to end. Yay!

Sadly, I’ve discovered that the more I learn about hell and the afterlife and all that Other World stuff, the more I need to tweak There’s no place like Hell. What a relief it’s still in the holding pattern over at my publisher’s and I can still fiddle with it. Far better than if I discovered the holes in my world’s existence after it was published. So, phew!

Other than that it’s still the same old reviewing of things. I’m also going to be redoing a lot of my blog structures over the coming months to line them all up, tidy them up and really start to gather an audience. So do drop me a line if you’re interested in checking some of the others out.

Finally, as much as don’t like celebrating Christmas before December 6th… it is indeed the time of year to start prepping for that silly season. Cards to write, food to start hoarding, baking lists to go over. I will be experimenting with chocolate again this year to test a theory I have about cashew cream white chocolate. Hoping for the best with that one.

Okay, that’s me done. Yes I know a lot of people this week have turned their blog posts into a bit of a soapbox moment regarding the violence in the world right now, but I chose not to. Why? Well I do feel deeply saddened by all the pain and misery… but I’ve felt this way all my life as this sort of thing is always happening. And, like with a tantrumming child – I will not react or respond to their bad behaviour. It’s what they want.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in Update on my Writer Life

 

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First chapters, like first impressions, are important.

What do I look for in a book and why is the first chapter so important?

Well, like most people, a book’s first impression on me is very important. And that first impression consists of three things – the cover, the blurb and the first chapter. Some may say that the author plays a big part, and this can be true… but quite honestly, if the first three give a good result, I don’t need to know who the author is. It often means I’ve just found a new author I like!

Which is the most important out of these three? The first chapter of course! The cover is just to grab your attention. The blurb merely the sales pitch to get you to open the book and read it. But that first chapter is the make it or break it moment. I will freely admit that if my interest is not captured in that first chapter, the book is a failure and gets put on my DNF (did not finish) pile. Admittedly, being the good natured soul I am I tend to give most books the first three chapters before I add to that pile, but that really is only if they pass that first chapter test.

Your first chapter doesn’t have to start with an explosion, big action scene, sex or any of the usual overhyped rubbish. Simply try and capture my mind with it. Sometimes it’s a slow, easy read that twist and tangles itself through my imagination so I don’t even realise I’ve past the first chapter, I’m so engrossed in the story. A good example of this is Mary Janice Davidson’s novel Undead and Unpopular. The opening line of the book is: “There’s a zombie in the attic.” George the Fiend informed me over breakfast.

That one line and how it was casually said got me interested. Then again this is one book in a series I had been reading for some time but it has always stuck with me as a punchy one liner that then goes right into the flow as if you’d been part of the conversation for long before the book started. Your imagination is snatched up and swept along with it and before you know it you’re in the middle of the book – way past the first chapter – and desperate to know how it all ends.

Other times it can even be how the first few lines read. Witty, enigmatic, suspenseful… some kind of emotional punch that makes me want to read on to see the how and why. But I do find if that emotional punch drags on to being a few jabs and a poke, I get bored and wander off.

Saying that, if you’re going to start with a punchy, witty, fantastic first line – keep it going at a good pace. Don’t put all your focus into the opening line and then drone on for the rest of the chapter. This is your make or break moment – show me what you’ve got!

I find one of the best ways an author can do this is to leave the last line of any chapter as a sentence just hanging there seemingly unfinished so that the reader simply must turn the page, start the next chapter and finish what was said.

Katie MacAlister is excellent at this. She always ends her chapters with an enticing sentence that gets that “One more Chapter” mantra going until you’ve found yourself reading until 3am.

I have had similar comments made about my own work and in my first book Bonnie’s Story: A Blonde’s guide to Mathematics it was the ending of my first chapter that got my publisher interested in publishing it.

Would you turn the page when a chapter ends so casually as: It was then that my world came to an end. Nothing too dramatic, just a sucking ‘pop’, and all I can surmise was left in the street was slowly dispersing smoke from his used Maths.

Actually, a first chapter is very much like a blog post. Start with a snappy title, capture the reader’s attention and keep it so they read the whole thing. They might then subscribe to your blog, they might check out what else you do. But you have their attention and they want to know more. Make it interesting, make it relevant to the title and ensure you make it sound like you know what you’re saying.

So grab a book today, be enticed by its cover, interested by its blurb and enthralled by its first chapter. Before you know it you’ll have finished the book. That is what makes a good first chapter.

Why am I talking about the importance of a first chapter? Because I’m lucky enough to have been chosen to be a judge for Freshly Squeezed in their latest C1Blitz. I get to read a lot of amazing and interesting first chapters to new YA works. Yes, it’s a tough job but someone has to do it…. and chocolate taster was taken. 😉

Head on over to Freshly Squeezed and check it all out.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2015 in Book Review, Writing

 

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New Year and New Career… Of sorts.

Hello everyone, yes I’m finally writing a new blog post rather than just re-sharing something I wrote for someone else some time ago. All the same I do hope you enjoyed them, especially if you didn’t get to read them where they were originally published.

And so here I am, back to blogging and trying to figure out what to write. So I decided to share what it is I plan on doing this year, as it is a new career of sorts.

As some know, I’ve just spent nearly the last twenty years in ITC Support (Information Technology and Communications)… Yes, I did stuff with computers including dealing with people who had broken them, forgotten how to do something, wanted to buy something for it or had accidentally opened a nude picture in their email and now infected the whole company with a virus. Fun times :-/

There were a few reasons why I’ve given this career up, the biggest one being my chronic sinusitis being so bad these last few years I can no longer work in an air-conditioned environment without getting a sinus infection every few weeks. And how many ITC based jobs are there outside of an air-conditioned environment? No, I couldn’t think of any either. So you can see, I needed a career change.

Another reason for the career change was my children, my demonic hordes. I wanted to be home for them and we could just scrape through financially – most days – with my being a stay at home mum and there to ferry them about to the various things they needed. Orthodontist for the eldest, ophthalmologist for the middle child and a whole damned dictionary of ologists for my youngest due to the myriad of delights he’s been through in his young life. Being diagnosed as a child with High Functioning Autism (Asperger’s in the old lingo) merely the most recent.

Who needs a ‘real job’ when you have the fun of being a Haus Frau/ drudge, baker, horde wrangler, gardener, zoo keeper and so on?

Add to that the magical moment of becoming a Published Author (note the capital letters as it’s such a big thing to me) and, well, I decided on a career change last year as I was determined to be a better Writer.

Sadly this didn’t go to plan as I tried to juggle being a Writer with being the afore mentioned Haus Frau with all the duties that come with it and failed at being a Writer miserably. I feel the jury is still out as to how I went as a Haus Frau too, but let’s not go there. House, children, the fact I make 80% of what we eat from scratch… all of that simply got in the road and every time I was meant to have a ‘writing week’ I got side tracked into doing more Haus Frauing. I was, indeed the supreme Empress of Procrastination as I barely got a literary thing done! Some tell me ‘oh but you got another book published’ but most of that work was done the year before and my work was merely in a holding pattern. As a writer, I did bupkis.

Actually I may be being a little hard on myself as I did learn a few new tricks of the trade when it comes to writing and being an Author. I learnt a lot about how to negotiate a deal and even more about the legal system, copyright infringement and who the best people to talk to about the miss-use of intellectual property were. I learnt about image branding, how to use social media to shake your assets in a better manner and how to register my own domain and start building a website… which I will start flogging to you when I get it up and running a bit better. 🙂

So possibly not a total waste? No, not really as all the things I learnt – mostly through trial and error – last year has helped me come up with what I plan on doing as a career this year. And what is it? I’m going to become a full time Author.

Don’t give me that look! It’s really not as odd as it sounds, while still being a lot different to what I was doing last year. No, it doesn’t mean I’ll be playing a lot more solitaire on my laptop and hanging out at cafes as much as possible… but I’m not going to rule that out either. 😉

What I mean- my interpretation of – being a full time author is to simply focus on my writing, my image, the whole social media deal and especially the website. Although I will still be working from home and still have my hordes needs to contend with, I’m not going to juggle a day on day off Haus Frau and Writer schedule like last year. No, I am going to be an Author. This, to me, is more professional than being a mere Writer. As it means I can be more focussed on getting my name known, my books sold and so on. I will treat it like a full time job and will do my best to ignore the Haus Frauing unless it’s outside of ‘being an Author’ hours.

I do foresee the house getting messier, the garden becoming even more weed riddled and all in all finding my weekends and evenings filled with doing all the Haus Frau things I usual have all week to do. But! I want to be a full time Author. I want to get my name out there through my blogging, through reviewing, through my multi media accounts. And so my family is aware they are now on the backburner as I give this life a go.

What do I plan on achieving this year? Well, I don’t expect to become a sudden and instant success where the money will be rolling in and I can stop hiding the bills under the couch cushion until I have the courage to look at them. No, we’re still going to be poor and struggling… but I’m going to be writing!

I have one manuscript There’s no place like Hell to finish and send off to my publisher to see if it makes the grade. It’s not going to be published this year as I missed the deadline, but I’m still hoping it will be published next year.

Add to that I plan on writing two more full manuscripts (of 100,000 words or more) to prove I’m serious about writing. One will be my first book in a cosy crime series I plan on setting here in the Adelaide Hills. The second manuscript I want to complete… well, it might be another in the crime series, it might be another in the Other World series… but it could even be one of the many other stories in my head that is yelling at me to write it down. I won’t know until I make enough room in there to think by getting these other two manuscripts out on paper.

Besides writing, I plan on reading. A lot. As I personally feel one of the best ways to improve your writing skills is to read the works of others and see how they do it. You might see where you’re going wrong; you might see where they could have done with a better editor. But reading opens the mind and often helps my own ideas flow and come out on paper easier than they would if I simply focussed on them alone.

One of the ways I plan on reading ‘a lot’ is by becoming a reviewer. Yes I know, this is signing my own death warrant as there are a lot of authors who don’t take well to constructive criticism and try and do all sorts of nasty things to ruin your name, reputation and so on when you give them a bad review. But seriously, those sorts of people should go back to writing for pleasure, not for public examination. Because I can assure them now that if I don’t like something, I’m sure there are others who won’t either. You need to put your big girl panties on when it comes to being an Author and take the bad reviews with the good. Try and learn from them, find the positive and put it to work in your further books. Only low grade authors (note the lack of capital A) resort to hate mail, spambots on twitter and the usual immature meanness I’ve seen pop up when friends, who are reviewers, ruffle the wrong feathers. Being a bully makes you into an ugly person, not matter what you do. Just saying. 😉

So I’m going to be hitting NetGalley pretty heavily this year and checking out books in different genres that take my fancy. I will do my best to read these books, review them with an honest opinion and, hopefully, even learn from them. I will also be using Goodreads a lot to display my reviews as well as adding them to this blog… until I get the review section of my website up and running.

And speaking of my website… Yes, being a full time Author also means I will be working hard on establishing myself on my own website through blogs, reviews, comments and so on. For now I will be using my existing blogs (I have three) but I will slowly be moving them over to the website. This is part of the whole image branding I’ll be working on. As, I hate to break it to you, but if you want to be an Author, you need to have an image and you need to get it out there and noticed. If people like your brand, they’re going to take an interest in your work. If they take an interest in your work… that could mean a sale. And as a sale could mean another salted caramel hot chocolate for me… Image branding is very important to me.

Now I mentioned three blogs didn’t I? Am I glutton for punishment? No, I don’t think so. You see, there are really three parts to my life right now and that is ‘Being a Writer’, ‘Being a Foodie’ and ‘Being a Haus Frau/Mum’. And so they are currently separated into three different blogs. This blog is my Author blog. I have a Foodie blog where I wax lyrically about my weird food tastes and the fun things I get up to with nut flour. My third blog is actually my oldest blog. It’s my Dairy of a Haus Frau and is where I go on about being a parent, the antics of my hordes, home and garden. Yes, I do blog about my life… possibly in the vain hope I can make it sound less boring than it really is… who knows for sure. 😀

Add to the gluttony for punishment and I’m starting to do commissioned blog posts for others. I don’t charge peanuts though. No, I’m asking for cashews as I prefer them a lot more. I’m also looking into some freelance writing for other people’s websites and blogs and all in all it is just more writing to add to my schedule. We won’t go into the possible archivist role I’ve volunteered for. What can I say, I’m insane.

Another part of my image branding is getting known and noticed on social media. And, hopefully, for saying nice things and not by having another vent about society, politicians and bad drivers. I tweet, I’m on Facebook, I do loads of food porn on Instagram, I even pin the occasional thing at Pinterest. I’m out there trying to be seen, trying to look interesting enough to entice people to look at my books and buy them.

And that is how I plan on being a full time author this year. Loads of writing, loads of asset shaking, a bit of IT dabbling and plenty of excuses to read other people’s work.

Wish me luck; I’m going to need it. I mean, I have a good feeling about it all and feel I’m freed up more to do it now all my hordes are at full time school… but this is only my third day in the job so maybe the glamour hasn’t worn off yet. Watch this space and let’s see what happens.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Writing

 

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